Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The One Thing You Need to Do Before Planning Your Next Trade Show

What's the number one thing any successful trade show planner MUST do before signing the contract? Before choosing the show, before reading the fine print, before doing anything?

Know your goals

Without goals, you have no way to measure your success (or failure). You risk spending more money than you need to, maybe even more than you can afford. Knowing why you want to exhibit and what you want to gain will guide your every move and decision.

There are four basic reasons to participate in a trade show.


Of course, everyone wants to end up with a fist full of leads. But if this is all you want, then are better off simply renting the list of attendees and skipping the show. What exhibitors really want is a fist full of qualified leads.

But there are some questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How many leads do you want?
  • How many salespeople do you need at the show in order to capture these leads?
  • How much time do your salespeople need to spend with each attendee in order to qualify them?
  • What percentage of these leads do you expect or want to turn into sales?
  • What is the average dollar amount of these sales?
  • What is the average turn around time, from opening to closing, of the average sale?
  • What kind of performance can you reasonable expect from each of your sales staff?

Answering these questions will help you plan almost everything about your trade show experience. Everything from how many sales and technical staff you will need to send -- to the location and size of your exhibit space. And most importantly, how much it's going to cost you.

Corporate Image

Your company's image is just as important as the products and services you sell. And yes, you have to consistently maintain that image. That's the bad news.

The good news is, trade shows are a great way to do it. The great news is, at trade shows, small companies with small budget have access to the same group of people as the biggest companies in the world. You can use a trade show to help update, change or reinforce your corporate image.

Here are a few suggestions, to get you started:

  • Show how your company, products and services are different from your competitors
  • Link your company with certain qualities and values
  • Update or reinforce your company's image
  • Introduce a new logo
  • Overcome a negative corporate image

Introduce a New Product Line or Service

Trade shows are a great place to launch a new product, line or service, especially if your new product or service is a major step up. At a trade show, you access to qualified buyers and the press. It can be a relatively inexpensive and highly useful way to get your new product and your company in the news.

With  pre-show planning, you can hold demonstration, demonstration or press conference right in your booth. You can make it as simple or as elaborate as your budget allows.

Meet Your Customers

Bringing in new leads and new customers is all well and good. And necessary. And expensive. The smart marketer knows, though, that it vitally important to maintain their current client base. A trade show may be one of the only times you can meet your clients face-to-face. 

There are many ways you can take advantage of your trade show. Here are a few:

  • Rent a hospitality suite and make appointments to meet your clients
  • Throw an invitation-only cocktail party, lunch or brunch for your customers
  • Sponsor a table at a brunch, dinner or other event given by trade show management
  • Host a special event organized by trade show management
  • Invite customers to your exhibit for a private meeting or product demonstration

There are many reasons to exhibit at trade shows. No two companies are alike, and their goals shouldn't be, either. Use these lists as a starting point. 

By knowing your specific goals, you can begin to plan your trade show exhibit. And by plan, I mean, budgeting your time, resources, people and money.